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Ghent University and IMEC reveal new optical forces
Groundbreaking results published in the premier scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology

Ghent and Leuven, Belgium -- July 14, 2009 -- The University of Ghent (UGent) and the nanoelectronics research center IMEC demonstrated repulsive and attractive nanophotonic forces, depending on the spatial distribution of the light used. These fundamental research results might have major consequences for telecommunication and optical signal processing.

Photon impulse is usually considered to be relatively weak. In our macroscopic world, photons bumping into an object exert an almost negligible force on this object. Nevertheless, this picture changes dramatically when the object size is shrunk to nanoscale dimensions. When light is confined to very small cross-sections and large gradients exist in the spatial field distribution of the light, the optical gradient force induced per photon increases dramatically.

Using advanced fabrication technologies, including DUV (Deep Ultraviolet) lithography and critical-point-drying, the researchers created two parallel waveguides on a silicon-on-insulator chip. The waveguides are freestanding, acting as movable strings. They have a width of 445nm, a height of 220nm, a length of approximately 25m and they are separated by a 220nm gap.

By sending laser light through the waveguides the researchers generated optical forces between them. Depending on the spatial distribution of the light (both in amplitude and phase) the strings were attracting or repulsing each other. The repulsive force that had never been demonstrated before makes this experiment of fundamental scientific importance.

The experiment might eventually have a major impact to achieve very high speed telecommunication for optical forces provide an interesting option for implementing all-optical signal processing functions on a chip. All-optical routing is one of the key challenges in developing faster communication networks (such as the internet) and the new technique opens up new routes towards solutions for this bottleneck.

The detailed experimental results will be published in the August issue of the premier scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, however, they are already available online (DOI 10.1038/NNANO.2009.186).

About UGent
Founded in 1817, Ghent University is a relatively young university. After its independence in 1830, the Belgian State was in charge of the administration of Ghent University; French was the new official academic language. In 1930 Ghent University became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium. The Decree of 1991 assigned great autonomy to the university.

With a view to cooperation in research and scientific service, numerous research groups, centres and institutes have been founded over the years. Several of them are renowned worldwide, in various scientific disciplines such as biotechnology, aquaculture, microelectronics, history,...

Today, after decades of uninterrupted growth, Ghent University is one of the leading institutions of higher education and research in the Low Countries. Ghent University is an open, committed and pluralistic university with a broad international perspective.

Located in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and the cultural and economical heart of Europe, Ghent University is an active partner in national and international educational, scientific and industrial cooperation.

Because it plays a leading role in the academic and scientific world, Ghent University attaches great interest to a transparent organization structure, a dynamic human resources policy, an active environmental policy, its support to spin-offs and other new initiatives,...

About IMEC
IMEC is a world-leading independent research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology. IMEC vzw is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, has a sister company in the Netherlands, IMEC-NL, offices in the US, China and Taiwan, and representatives in Japan. Its staff of more than 1650 people includes about 550 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2008, its revenue (P&L) was EUR 270 million.

IMEC's More Moore research aims at semiconductor scaling towards sub-32nm nodes. With its More than Moore research, IMEC looks into technologies for nomadic embedded systems, wireless autonomous transducer solutions, biomedical electronics, photovoltaics, organic electronics and GaN power electronics.

IMEC's research bridges the gap between fundamental research at universities and technology development in industry. Its unique balance of processing and system know-how, intellectual property portfolio, state-of-the-art infrastructure and its strong network worldwide position IMEC as a key partner for shaping technologies for future systems.
Further information on IMEC can be found at

UGent: Ir. Joris Roels, Photonics Research Group, T: +32 9 264 34 48,
Prof.Dr.Ir.Dries Van Thourhout, Photonics Research Group, T: +32 9 264 34 38,
IMEC: Hanne Degans, Press Relations, T: +32 16 28 17 69,

Publisher Contact Information:

+32 16 28 17 69

Company profile of IMEC
Past press releases of IMEC.


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